Try talking to save lives in Libya

 

                   NATO is clearly looking for new ways to continue its intervention in Libya. We have heard of the use of drones and military advisers in recent days.  It needs to remember it is operating under a UN Resolution which only allows it to help save civilian lives. It does not have legal cover to kill civilians, to intervene on one side in the civil war or to enforce regime change.

                 Using air power only allows the destruction of heavy weaponry from the air when it is not close to civilians. As Libyan government forces now mainly operate street by street within cities it cannot be used to hold them back. Using drones is going to be difficult in such circumstances as well. They may be better targetted than bombs from warplanes, but there is still a danger of civilians being killed when letting them off in congested areas and narrow streets.

                 So why doesn’t the UN or NATO consider talks with the cause of their grief, the Libyan government? As NATO are not allowed to use all means to defeat him owing to the UN constraint and the wish to avoid more civilian deaths at the hands of NATO, wouldn’t it make sense to talk to the Libyan regime to see if there can be any diplomatic way of relieving the pressure on certain Libyan civilians from their government? What is there to lose from such an approach? How else is this all going to end, if the people of Libya are not about to evict their ruler, and if the friends and allies of Gaddafi still intend to keep him in power?

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37 Comments

  1. lifelogic
    Posted April 23, 2011 at 7:12 am | Permalink

    Indeed what is the UK/French half baked plan for a resolution of this given the restricted UN resolution and the practical political and military limitations. Do they have one?

    • Stuart Fairney
      Posted April 23, 2011 at 8:08 am | Permalink

      I imagine they will muddle through in a Crimea-like (or should that be Crimea-lite) funk, streching the original resolution beyond all bounds of credibility until public apathy/opposition and frankly a lack of money and military resources force them to come up with some compromise miles from the orginal intent.

      My bet? The ‘Gaddafi must go’ line has been so driven home it would be hard to retreat from that, even for the ever changing Dave and Sarko, so I reckon they might start talking about moderate elements in the Libyan regime and the TV friendly Saif (one of the seemingly non-psychotic sons) takes over after saying a few reassuring but utterly empty words and Libya is carved up in a flawed peace deal only to kick off again at a later date.

      And we might wonder if we have spent hundreds of millions of pounds well, even assuming (please god) we suffer no casulaties.

  2. Peter
    Posted April 23, 2011 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    “So why doesn’t the UN or NATO consider talks with the cause of their grief, the Libyan government?”

    So why don’t MP’s force Cameron to use negotiation not brute force?

    Why is it always years later that recriminations start over illegal wars?

    What is in this ridiculous and immoral war for us?

  3. MartinW
    Posted April 23, 2011 at 9:34 am | Permalink

    More compelling evidence is arriving daily (though not via the BBC) to show that many of the so-called rebels are not the warm-hearted, democracy-loving, caring people that the politicos first thought they were. Murder, torture, beheadings seem increasingly commonplace. If the rebels were to prevail, then we will quickly see a repressive regime replaced by a far worse jihadist one. It may be distasteful to admit it, but a ‘tamed’ Gaddafi was a bulwark against rampant Brotherhood and jihadist islamism.
    Following the invitation for talks from Tripoli, I fervently hope that urgent talks are underway and that some compromise will be soon forthcoming. The British government does have a way out by admitting it misread the intentions of the ‘rebels’ and was in effect bounced into war by the French. A resolution brokered with Saif Gaddafi is surely possible, in view of his links with Britain. For sure, there would be some further bloodshed in Benghazi, but a resolution must be better than the present creeping war.
    The worst case is if there are no talks or compromise, and Gaddafi wins the war of attrition. His revenge of Britain would be strong and sustained, and it doesn’t take much imagination to understand what that could mean.

  4. norman
    Posted April 23, 2011 at 9:44 am | Permalink

    The situation outside of Benghazi may have been bad (although I believe, like the sexed up Iraq dossier, not as bad as politicians made out) but there can be no longer be any doubt that our intervention has only made things worse overall.

    Another fine mess.

  5. Electro-Kevin
    Posted April 23, 2011 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    Libya is an example of the cruel reality which is living in a place which is Not Like Britain.

    That Mr Cameron may wish to intervene in a civil war shows his human side (a little naive and sixth-former-ish to me) but why isn’t Mr Cameron doing more to ensure that our country doesn’t become a place which is Not Like Britain ?

    Why are so many people of influence (I haste to add a tiny minority) so keen to make our country into a place which is Not Like Britain and why are there so few prepared to prevent it from happening ?

  6. Brian Tomkinson
    Posted April 23, 2011 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    It can be argued that the UN and NATO have made a bad situation worse and that more lives are being lost by their intervention. Today the BBC report that “Tribes loyal to Colonel Gaddafi may drive rebels from Misrata if the army fails, a senior official says, as fresh Nato air strikes hit Tripoli”. All the time there is an underlying deceit that this is not about regime change when it most clearly is.

  7. Epigenes
    Posted April 23, 2011 at 9:54 am | Permalink

    Mr Redwood, you are absolutely right to state that NATO has nothing to lose by trying a diplomatic solution.

    I’ve always thought of NATO as being a pragmatic organisation – more so than the UN and most governments – and I’m confident that what you suggest here will happen in due course.

  8. acorn
    Posted April 23, 2011 at 10:20 am | Permalink

    I would try talking to the Italians and the Cypriots first. £30 million a week for using their…. air bases is a bit steep!!!! According to the navy fly boys, this little adventure is costing us £39 million a week. Again, according to the navy, Ark Royal and its Harriers only cost £1.6 million a week; bombs; missiles and jet fuel extra. You do the math, as the yanks would say. (Everybody gets a bill for everything in NATO and the Italian hotels have been block booked till September for 700 RAF personnel, according to FAAOA).

    As I suggested previously, the tribes of Libya are now getting a bit pissed; the Misratah shoot first ask questions afterwards thing, is starting to affect business. They want to takeover the show. The question; is an armed tribal warrior a “civilian”, (aka a rebel) under resolution 1973; or, a regime combatant?

  9. James Matthews
    Posted April 23, 2011 at 10:46 am | Permalink

    Entirely off topic. Happy St. George’s Day.

  10. oldtimer
    Posted April 23, 2011 at 10:56 am | Permalink

    The sponsors of the UN resolution (the UK and France with the USA dragged along) are indeed trapped by its terms – hoist, as it were, by their own petard. Talking to the Ghaddafi regime is anathema to them because it means that regime change would not be s not secured and Ghaddafi would claim victory over the old colonialists.

    Sooner or later the parties to the conflict will run out of the means to deliver a decisive blow and stalemate will ensue. Perhaps we have already arrived at this point. The US chief, Adfmiral Mullen (?) seems to think so. It is clear that at some point talks will be required – they always are in order to end conflicts. What is unclear is who has enough gumption and influence to do it.

  11. waramess
    Posted April 23, 2011 at 11:04 am | Permalink

    11 MP’s told parliament what they should have done and the rest were “up for it” whether voting beligerently for a military strike or abstaining, for what reason the latter, escapes me.
    Best to have resisted the temptation of poking our collective noses in other peoples business in the first place; dogs do that.
    Now, what about that pressing problem at home that will require a reduction in government spending….?

    Reply: I abstained and explained to the governemnt why they disagreed with their action. I was clear they had an overwhelming majority and there was no chance of defeating them.

  12. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted April 23, 2011 at 11:56 am | Permalink

    A no fly zone plus selling arms to the rebels plus denying Gaddafi revenue seems the best way forward. Negotiate when the balance of power is known.

    How much of the oil is still flowing and where is the oil revenue going?

    What are our ‘military advisors’ advising on?

  13. Neil Craig
    Posted April 23, 2011 at 11:59 am | Permalink

    Lets not pretend that anybody here is remotely interested in legality. The UN Charter specifically asserts that the UN doesn’t have the right to override national sovereignty, by “authorising” attacks so such “authorisation” is bogus. Remeber that the same parties that support this illegal war supported an illegal war against Yugoslavia to allow drug lords, sex slavers and organleggers to wear our police uniforms in Kosovo, without any UN authorisation.

    What we have to lose by negotiating with Gaddafi is the “respect” which was repeatedly said to be the reason we had to ethnically cleanse Kosovo. The human lives of the locals were not a consideration then (otherwise NATO could never have promised to level Belgrade “flat as this table”) and they are not now.

    In any case the real damage has been done. We have proved that Gaddafi was wrong to trust to western promises that he would be welcomed if he gave up wmds. If he had kept them, as Syria probably has, NATO would have done nothing. No other country is going to trust such promises again. By teaching the world that NATO respects nothing but military force we have made the world a far more dangerous place. Now we are showing them that NATO has no real military force.

    • zorro
      Posted April 23, 2011 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

      Good point…no rational nation would disarm now as they know that they would face a ‘popular uprising’, regime change, a shiny new central bank and debt servitude in the future…

      zorro

    • Andrew Johnson
      Posted April 23, 2011 at 10:12 pm | Permalink

      I fully agree. The North Atlantic treaty organisation was set up to be a self defence pact. It has been perverted into an arm of American foreign policy. which only has one aim – the pursuit of America’s interests first and foremost.
      I am outraged at my country’s shameful participation in this fiasco. Libya has not attacked Britain, but we are waging war on them.

      PS. To add deep insult to grievous injury, Italy is reported to be charging Britain £39 million a week for the use of their airbases!

  14. Claire Khaw
    Posted April 23, 2011 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

    So why did you vote FOR the bombing of Libya?

    Could you not FORESEE this happening?

    If you did not, you should have.

    If you could not, does that mean you are stupid?

    Reply: I did not vote for the Libyan action – try reading the back history of this issue before condemning my views!

  15. forthurst
    Posted April 23, 2011 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

    We’re all neoconservatives now, our politicians, that is, not actually us: it is no surprise that the decision to attack Libya was almost unanimous in our parliament; that is because neoconservatism is fundamentally a movement of the left which has hijacked the right both in the US and here. It is a political philosophy that proposes the use of brutal force rather than dialogue as its primary instrument of foreign policy. The British people, however, will never be comfortable with it because they are a temperate people, a people without the capacity for the extremes of loathing and love for foreign countries, particularly in the Middle East that the progenitors of this philosophy espouse; nor are they infected with the same callousness towards the ‘other’ which their religion of hatred extols. Neoconservative, a logical evolution of neo-Trotskyism by neo-Trotskyites, and Bolshevism are essentially the same driven by the same people and the same psychopathy and we need to be out of it.

  16. Duyfken
    Posted April 23, 2011 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

    This seems like an open-ended commitment – Syria next. Either the UN (Britain, France, USA etc) enable the quick overthrow of Libya’s dictator, and show determination to do likewise in other unstable countries in the region, or just do nothing except provide humanitarian assistance. The Middle East dictators need routing because of their oppressive and less than benign rule, but it is unlikely we shall derive any long-term benefit or thanks for interfering.

    Of course, in all of these Arabic (and Iranian) States, the underlying interest is the way those in power may allow oil to be available without obstruction. That they have apparent power over the oil-needy nations, they in turn need to sell their oil at the best price. There seems no reason (IMO) to expect that they would for instance sell to China by political preference, rather than at a higher price which others are offering.

    Why not let them all suffer the swelling turmoil (and see which of their neighbours provides assistance and to whom), and then when the dust has settled, re-open commercial relations?

  17. Suze Doughty
    Posted April 23, 2011 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

    The best way, probably the only way, to save civilian lives in Libya is clearly to kill Gaddafi and remove his family from power. Talking will not achieve that, and in the meantime he appears to be supporting violence in Ireland once more

    • Mike Stallard
      Posted April 23, 2011 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

      And who oi you propose to replace him then?

  18. Martyn
    Posted April 23, 2011 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

    As Churchill famously said “jaw-jaw is better than war-war”. There may be much that we don’t know about in what is going on behind the scenes, political and military in this case, but I cannot see how Cameron can afford to or justify ramping up our military involvement without significant risk of it going very badly wrong indeed.
    Libya is a huge country fraught with all sorts of logistic nightmares for troops in the field and I just hope that Cameron will not ignore the lessons of history by committing the UK to deploying our troops to Libya. First and foremost, as you suggest, John, someone needs to start talking and working out a political solution. Today would be good…

  19. Mike Stallard
    Posted April 23, 2011 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

    When the American Colonies revolted in 1776, George Washington was their leader ready and willing to become first president. There were also a lot of his colleagues each of whom (and many of them did) were ready to become president after him. Also, the colonies were all English Speaking, united in their Christian Faith (but not in their sects) and they felt they were all English.
    In Libya none of this is true. The very first things a tyrant does is to lop the heads off the tallest poppies. There is also tribalism. It isn’t a country.
    So I suspect a sort of Yugoslav situation when/if Ghadders goes. And then there will be lots and lots and lots if civilian casualties.

    • Edward.
      Posted April 23, 2011 at 7:26 pm | Permalink

      I greatly fear that you are correct Mr. Stallard, it will be the people – most of them innocents who’ll suffer most, it is ever thus.

  20. zorro
    Posted April 23, 2011 at 6:35 pm | Permalink

    What will happen next?…….The French (aka ‘trusted allies’) will back out of sending in ground troops and make Cameron look like a fool (serves him right for being ignorant). Civil war/prolonged conflict will ensue. We, the British, will not gain any advantage from this disaster and some US firms will hoover up contracts and security deals….Same old same old

    zorro

  21. Edward.
    Posted April 23, 2011 at 7:21 pm | Permalink

    Why didn’t someone talk to Dave, Sarko and Obama before they embarked on this lunacy?

    Libya was always a war too much, too ‘far’ and too near….. and a nasty and savage blood letting is now ensuing – a great game for various Islamic groups of battle hardened thugs.
    The demons issue out of and from this particular pandora’s box of evil, it will take a great effort to close off this madness, what were they [the above characters] ever thinking about?

    What does Gaddafi have to talk about, he’s gaining the upper hand because he has to………… he is a desperate man in more ways than one – for Gaddafi, there is nowhere to go.

    Having said that, Mr. Redwood, indeed – I wish that all factions would talk to Nato, ‘jaw jaw is better’….. .

  22. Gary
    Posted April 23, 2011 at 7:32 pm | Permalink

    First, the myth about the Kosovo intervention being a reaction to genocide should be dismissed. Kosovo was secured by NATO because it is a strategic territory for the AMBO pipeline from the Caspian to relieve shipping pressure on a crowded Bosphorous. That is why there is the largest foreign US military base in the world there now. Then we should start describing this Libya operation for what it is, a resource grab by a bunch of countries in economic dire straights.

    • simple soul
      Posted April 24, 2011 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

      You may speak truer than you know, Gary. What we hear in the media is that Libya is not a really big oil producer and the world can get by quite well without it. What the media don’t tell us is that Libya’s gas reserves are among the largest in the world and could be a vital asset in giving Europe energy security and freedom from dependence on Russia. Norway, for instance, has very small reserves compared with Libya. So there is a huge strategic prize to win.

      • simple soul
        Posted April 24, 2011 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

        The current issue of the Investors Chronicle reports that Libya’s technically recoverable shale gas resources are estimated at 290 trillion cubic feet. This is presumably excluding any conventional gas from normal oil fields. In other words there is enough gas in Libya to tempt governments less scrupulous than ours to look for pretexts for intervention.

  23. Kenneth
    Posted April 23, 2011 at 8:22 pm | Permalink

    Mr Redwood, your post is spot on. I would have hoped that some news outlets would have run your statement.

    I think our government would do well to call for negotiations, whether this is in co-ordination with the U.S./France or unilaterally.

    As you say, what is there to lose? If we do nothing there may be much to lose, especially innocent lives.

  24. BobE
    Posted April 24, 2011 at 11:40 am | Permalink

    Its our oil under their sand

  25. Conrad Jones (Cheam)
    Posted April 24, 2011 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

    Mr Redwood,

    As always, you state the common sense of diplomacy that I fear may be irrelevant and somewhat naive in todays world of globalisation. I agree with your sentiment.

    “So why doesn’t the UN or NATO consider talks with the cause of their grief, the Libyan government?” – Yes – I agree. But what would they talk about ?

    Very interesting link concerning the economic and Central Banking connections to the Libyan “Humanitarian Intervention”.
    http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/MD14Ak02.html

    It appears that Libya wasn’t (isn’t) the oppressive regime we’ve all been lead to believe by the BBC. Rebels creating their own “Central Bank” in March does seem rather strange, especially as Libya already has it’s own Central Bank (100% state owned) creating the Nation’s Money.

    Remembering the fact that The Libyan Government creates it’s own money let’s look at a “non-biased” source of econmic data:

    CIA Factbook:
    Libyan Public Debt:
    3.3% of GDP (2010 est.)
    3.9% of GDP (2009 est.)
    https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ly.html
    Budget:
    revenues: $42.31 billion
    expenditures: $38.92 billion (2010 est.)

    United Kingdom Public Debt:
    76.5% of GDP (2010 est.)
    68.2% of GDP (2009 est.)
    https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/uk.html
    Budget:
    revenues: $926.7 billion
    expenditures: $1.154 trillion (2010 est.)

    Notice that the expenditures for Libya are less than their revenues.
    Notice also that their public debt is a lot less than the UK’s (as a percentage of GDP) and is less than it was the previous year.

    Despite free education, cheap gasoline, massive public expenditures, like the US$33 billion GMMR (Great Man-Made River) project, they are not up to their eyeballs in debt. Why? The Oil or does the fact that Libya creates it’s own money also explain why they have a public debt figure that the UK and especially the US secretly envy.

    Libya’s decision to reject the US Dollar as a form of exchange for it’s Oil and the formation of an African Currency – based on the Dinar, in direct competition to both the Euro and the US Dollar could be what this is really all about. Strange how it’s Nations who use both the US Dollar and the Euro that are bombing Libya.
    Russia, China, India, Brazil and South Africa are not – as far as I know; taking part in the Nation Destroying exercise.

    When considering the Economic and Financial Systems adopted by so called “Rogue” Nations, it sheds new light on why things happen the way they do. Instead of bombing Libya we should be studying their Central Banks money creating system and why it is so successfull compared to ours. They have low inflation and no deficit spending, low debt and still offer free education and large public works. So why are we killing Libyans, again?

  26. raymong31
    Posted April 24, 2011 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

    John, please don’t ever become minister for defence. Naivity is no qualification.

    • Scottspeig
      Posted April 26, 2011 at 8:41 am | Permalink

      As opposed to the existing lot that have no idea what the end game is or how to get it? The existing lot are far more naive than John.

  27. Bryan
    Posted April 25, 2011 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

    I assume that today, 25th, our Prime Minister will explain why we are bombing the centre of Tripoli where the only citizens at risk are those being bombed by NATO?

    I also assume that we are urgently preparing a UN resolution with our NATO partners to implement a no-fly zone in Syria where more citizens are now being slaughtered than in Libya?

    Or does Syria not have enough oil?

    • Conrad Jones (Cheam)
      Posted April 26, 2011 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

      I don’t think it’s just the Oil. Interestingly – Syria also (like Libya) has a State Controlled Central Bank.

      Yemen and Bahrain have privately controlled Central Banks.

  28. Conrad Jones (Cheam)
    Posted April 26, 2011 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

    Syria announced it was to drop the US Dollar in 2006:
    http://www.currencynews.co.uk/20060711-225.html

    Iraq was trading in Euros for a few months prior to their Invasion. This is the real reason why Germany and France were not keen on joining the Coalition – their currency was not under threat.

    Now – Libya is planning on abandoning both the Euro and the US Dollar – so – surprise, surprise – France is now involved in bombing a Middle Eastern Country as it too is under economic threat. Italy is not protesting and nor is Germany.

    As always, to get a true picture on what these Wars are about – follow the money.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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